Tracy’s Social Hometown

We came to Iowa to hang out with Tracy’s people, and Iowa is continuing to deliver. Or, to overuse that Field of Dreams reference, if you show up with your weird new travel trailer, the friends will come!

We’ve walked, driven, and biked through old neighborhoods here in Cedar Falls and its sister city, Waterloo, and I’ve seen plenty of evidence that Iowans spend as much time outside as they can, enjoying warm weather while they have it.

Practically every backyard is landscaped for lounging, with abundant patio furniture, flower and veggie gardens, pools (how is it that there’s always kids and at least one dog in every pool exactly when we drive by?), gazebos, cute little bridges, you name it.

And when I joked to Tracy that half the pick-up trucks have kayaks in the back, he chimed in, “More than half.” Iowans bike, fish, socialize in their yards, and certainly take their ginormous RVs to the neighborhood campground for the weekend. Ours is nearly full, and all the license plates are from Black Hawk, this county.

Friends and Family

Cedar Falls and Waterloo are the hub for John Deere’s engine factories and engineering offices (something like that), where several of Tracy’s family members built their careers, including Tracy’s dad. On previous visits while sitting around with family, I got the impression that John Deere is part of the family culture here.

Below, we’re with a couple of cousins from Tracy’s dad’s side (Mary, Linda, man in Panama hat, and Gary), who super-generously invite us over every year we visit and didn’t let a pandemic stop them this time.

Gary cooked baby back ribs on the grill and thus won over Banjo’s heart, which was needed since she remarkably barked at him earlier when he visited us at the campground on his bike. The prospect of ribs will do that.

Thanks for hosting us, Linda! Thanks for asking smart questions about the Airstream, Gary. And thanks for the doctored Dots, Mary!

When it was our turn to host we weren’t as gracious (no grill, no ribs), but we did offer beer when we had it and a campfire. Thanks for coming by, Christina, and I hope you get to go to the Harry Potter park in Orlando with your sis later this year. I’m envious!

And holy moly thanks for the local beer, Mike and Tonya. We were almost in desperate straits there. I hope the 300 cupcakes went over well!

So, yeah, we showed up with our weird trailer, and they certainly came. It felt so good to swap stories and laugh with people we knew.


Believe it or not, between socializing we did have time to kill.

As of yesterday, the flood waters had receded a little, so we rode bikes several times, through Cedar Falls, to Waterloo, and on every long-cut we could find.

What’s cool about the bike trails here is 1) how well maintained they are, 2) that there are bike repair stations and plenty of signs all along the way, and 3) that the woods and prairies and lakes are all so picturesque around us that you can’t get up to speed for looking around you.

I’m guessing the reason this landscape impressed me especially is that I’m used to stuff in the way of the view: buildings, hills, mountains. I haven’t been able to see so far since I lived in Montana.

Could that Dust Storm Reach Here?

Speaking of Big Sky Country: what’s up with the sky at sunrise and sunset around here?

Mike mentioned the dust cloud from the Sahara as a possible reason for our neon skies, but I don’t think it’s reaching this far, right?

But Holy Moly it’s been all shades of pink. I feel like I’m on the set for some distant planet in the original Star Trek.

And even when it looks like regular sky, there’s a whole lot of it.

Next Up

Wisconsin! First we stay at a Harvest Hosts brewery (woohoo) and then Madison, where Tracy went to school.

Bring it, squeaky cheese curds and smoked fish—and our birthday friend, Doug! I’m getting the hang of socializing the Midwest way.

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